St Helens arrange game at Anfield

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The Independent Online
Rugby League

St Helens will spread their gospel to the football end of Merseyside next season by playing a Super League match at Anfield. Last season's double winners will stage their home match against Castleford on 27 April at Liverpool's ground in an attempt to turn the city on to rugby league.

"We are a Merseyside club and we are coming to the capital of Merseyside hoping to convert people to rugby league for their summer break," the Saints chief executive, David Howes, said. "We are sending out a message that we want to become a regional side. We see this becoming an annual event, although there is no hidden agenda of merger or ground-sharing."

Saints hope an attractive fixture on a weekend without Premiership football will pull in fans from Liverpool as well as their own average support of 10,000. It will be the first league game that Anfield has hosted, although there were more than 17,000 at the ground for the Charity Shield between Wigan and Widnes in 1989 and 20,000 at the World Club Challenge between Wigan and Penrith two years later.

Saints' Great Britain full-back Steve Prescott, who played football there as a schoolboy before concentrating on his rugby career, predicted that he and his team-mates would thrive on the atmosphere at Anfield. "Most of the Saints players are Liverpool fans and I think everyone will enjoy playing here," he said.

Saints welcomed their new signing from the Auckland Warriors, Julian O'Neill, who was taken from Manchester airport to Anfield to take part in the launch.

St Helen's other duty yesterday was to preside over the draw for the first round of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup, which they won at Wembley in April.

A return visit next year would come between their Anfield game and their first match in the World Club Challenge, against the Auckland Warriors.